Recreational Electrical Vehicle Battery Emergency Preparedness – Expect the Unexpected

May 11, 2021

Action: Where appropriate, the ORFA recommends JHSC agenda item and H&S Bulletin Board Posting

Advancements in battery technology has seen a significant shift towards electrical vehicle (EV) use in many environments. Recreation departments are embracing the technology for a variety of reasons. The elimination of transporting, storing, and training for safe fossil fuel use is a primary advantage with improved indoor air quality being an additional return on investment. Manufacturers are responding to the increased demand for battery powered equipment by significantly investing in safe design and maximum life cycle that often exceeds minimum government regulations or standards. Considering how many EV batteries there are in the world today, emergency situations are rare, but do occur.

The ORFA continues to monitor how our industry is embracing more efficient and environmentally friendly ways to delivery service. History has proven that with every new technological advancement there are known and unknown risks and hazards. The introduction of steam in the 1800s had over-pressure incidents that resulted in explosion and led to steam whistles as both a warning and pressure relief safety device. All fossil fuels have had a safety learning curve often based on incidents that resulted in injury or loss of life. Even with all this knowledge, recreation fossil fueled vehicles have failed and have created emergency situations. Recreation facilities are unique work environments as they will often include public access. This increases the responsibility to be properly prepared and adequately trained to respond to any type of emergency event.

NASA’s 1986 budget was 750-million dollars with some of the most intelligent people in the world designing the Shuttle. Unexpectedly, a faulty mechanical gasket in the fuel compartment led to the shuttle disaster 73 seconds after launch, resulting in the loss of 7 astronauts. The ORFA continues to research EV battery emergency planning and raises the concern regarding EV emergency response. 

Human nature is to stop and watch any type of fire. The recreation facilities industry would be proactive to inform building users of the increased need to immediately evacuate a building should any battery powered equipment begin to fail. Diligent facility supervisors will know exactly what type of batteries are installed as they are not all the same. There is a need to continually train staff to “expect the unexpected” and be prepared to take control when things go wrong. Ongoing investment in designing and practicing how staff should respond should there be a battery powered EV event is essential preparation when any new battery powered equipment arrives. Following manufacturers recommendations for charging, maintenance, life-cycle replacement, and storage is critical to every EV operational safety plan. Only properly trained operators should be permitted to use any recreational EV.

The ORFA has created the Electric Vehicle Batteries Risk and Hazards Guideline as a benefit of membership to assist all facility staff in better understanding the subject and preparation for a significant EV event.  Members are requested to review the document for feedback and share their experiences with EV equipment in pursuit of a safer workplace and improved industry.

ORFA PODCAST - Episode 7, An Open Discussion About Electric Ice Resurfacer’s